Forensic science is, broadly speaking, the application of scientific principles to criminal and civil laws. It includes scientific disciplines ranging from DNA to digital evidence to forensic pathology. Successful forensic scientists have the training and experience to analyze evidence in their discipline and the ability to explain that analysis and its conclusions.
Forensic science can play an important role in a variety of criminal cases. It is important for prosecutors to understand the scientific underpinnings of, and limits on, forensic science disciplines they use to charge a defendant or describe to a jury.
Attorney general offices may provide oversight and/or assistance with legal or policy issues to forensic science laboratories. In some states, a statewide laboratory is under the auspices of the attorney general; in others, the attorney general office provides legal representation to the laboratory.
NAAG has provided training to prosecutors; partnered with other organizations to assist the forensic science laboratory in Puerto Rico and provided subject matter expertise in the area of casualty management to the federal government during the COVID-19 epidemic.
Forensic Science Trainings
In 2017 and 2018, the NAGTRI Center for Ethics and Public Integrity (CEPI) hosted the National Forensic Science Symposium in Washington, D.C. For the 2018 training, CEPI partnered with the U.S. Department of Justice, National District Attorneys Association, and the D.C. Department of Forensic Science, which hosted much of the training. Both the 2017 and 2018 trainings included presentations addressing:
- The scientific support and limitations of disciplines including DNA, latent prints, and firearms
- Statistics training for prosecutors
- Ethical issues involving forensic evidence
Puerto Rico Forensic Science Project
In fall 2017, Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico. In the wake of the storm, the Puerto Rico Secretary of Justice asked NAAG if it could help the territory’s prosecutors by assisting the crime lab with capacity issues. Learn about the Puerto Rico Forensic Science Project.